Things to do online and at home.
A selection of online and hands on activities that relate to the science behind this project. No special equipment required.
You will need
- A bucket (The bigger the better but anything over 30cm will do)
- Egg box
- Some stones/coarse gravel/broken pottery
- 2-3 seed potatoes
Chitting and planting your potatoes
- The first thing to do is order your seed potatoes. Earlies or Second early varieties are good for gardeners with limited space. What variety you buy depends on exactly when you are planting and what sort of potato you fancy. You can browse different varieties on the many seed websites (e.g. Thompson Morgan) or buy them at a garden centre where you may be able to get more advice and guidance (e.g. Camden Garden Centre)
- Next you will need to ‘chit’ you potatoes. This prepares the potatoes for planting. Take your seed potatoes and place them in an egg box the more rounded end (the end which has the most eyes or sprouts) uppermost. Then place them in a light room but out of direct sunlight if possible. They are ready to be planted out when the shoots are about 1.5-2.5cm long.
- When you are ready to plant your potatoes you will need to prepare your bucket. First bore some drainage holes in the bottom with a drill or sturdy knife. Then place a thin layer of stones, coarse gravel or broken pottery in the bottom, this is not essential but will help stop the drainage holes from becoming blocked.
- You are now ready to plant your potatoes. First fill the bucket around half full with compost (if you don’t have any at home this can be bought in bags from a garden centre) or you can use soil, but try and get some rich dark loamy soil that will give the plants the nutrients they need). Now push two (or if you have a bigger bucket more) evenly spaced potatoes half into the soil with the sprouts facing up and cover with 15cm of compost/soil.
- Check the soil for moisture if it feels dry you can give it a water until a little water comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom.
- Now place the bucket somewhere with plenty of natural light and wait for the plant to grow.
- If you are growing inside then you should place the bucket on something that will protect the floor beneath.
Looking after potato plants - Top Tips
- Water - Your potato plants will need to be checked for moisture at least twice a week. Just poke your finger into the soil and water lightly if the soil under the surface feels dry to the touch. You may need to water a little more frequently (every 2 days) if you are growing inside but make sure you don’t over do it, the earth should be moist not sodden.
- Temperature - Potatoes grow best at around 10-15 degrees so don’t let the plant get too hot if you have put inside by a big window and be careful of frosts if it is outside. If it looks like being a frosty night you can cover the plant with a blanket or an old cardboard box.
- Earthing up - When your potato plant has grown about 15 cm high it is time to ‘earth it up’ this is a trick that encourages the plant to produce more potatoes. Just add another 10 cm of compost to the pot so that there is about 5 cm or more of plant remaining above the soil. You can continue this process (depending on the size of your pot) until the plant is ready for harvesting.
Harvesting your potatoes
Now comes the fun bit, the moment to harvest and eat these little beauties.
- If you choose Charlotte potatoes these should take around 17 weeks from planting to harvest, but to check is easy, just scrape away the surface layer of the soil and check the size of the tubers.
- Tip out the bucket and separate the potatoes from clumps of earth but do not clean, they will store better with a bit of earth on
- Store in cool dark place. If you planted Charlottes or other new potatoes you will need to use them quite quickly or they will spoil. Do not eat any that go green.
Why not check out some of our potato dishes on the recipe page.
If you have really enjoyed growing your potatoes you can get tips on what other veg you can grow at the RHS site.